Posts Tagged ‘Governor of Texas

31
Aug
13

a man of constant sorrow

If you have ever seen the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?, there is a character that is more than loosely based on the famous (or infamous) Governor of Texas, W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel.  In real life, O’Daniel moved from Kansas to Fort Worth as a young man where he became the sales manager of the Burris Flour Mill.   This company was heavily involved in radio advertising, and the medium proved to be one the future governor took to naturally.  He also had an affinity for songwriting and ultimately hired a group of musicians to form and old timely band originally called the Light Crust Doughboys.

Now you may have never heard of the Light Crust Doughboys (or later the Hillbilly Boys) but the group launched a few things I assure that you have heard of.  One was Western Swing, and the other was its King and a doughboy alumnus, Bob Wills.

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O’Daniel ultimately captured the public spotlight with a noontime radio show that focused on good music and the catchy phrase he often used, “pass the biscuits, Pappy!”  His popularity was so great that he was easily persuaded by his adoring fans to run for Governor of Texas.  He campaigned on the virtues of the Ten Commandments, tax cuts and economic development.  He was often accompanied by his band whose popularity was skyrocketing at the time and thus drew huge crowds.  Aside from the brilliance of bringing your own band, yesterday’s campaign talking points are not so different than todays.  That is of course unless our very own King of Country Music decides it’s not a far hike from San Antonio, or his ranch in Cotullla to the Governor’s Mansion…hmmm.

Well despite his popularity, Governor O’Daniel, who was the only person to defeat Lyndon Baines Johnson, was largely unsuccessful in delivering on his campaign promises.  In fact, as his record suggests, he reneged on most of them and ultimately was known more for his musical legacy than his leadership.

Back then, the colonial practice of “riding the rail” was still within the political vernacular of the times.  In the movie, there was a scene were Pappy O’Daniel works the crowd up in the presence of his political foe and incites them into doing just that.  The masses demonstrate their displeasure by straddling the ousted on a rail held on the shoulders of two men, then taken to the street and dumped – right on a steaming pile of horse apples I might add for effect.  Boy – you sure knew exactly where you stood back then didn’t you?  The good ole days.

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President Abraham Lincoln gets credit in a speech for quoting someone else about riding the rail, but history suggests he used it often, “if it weren’t for the honor of the thing, I would just as soon walk.”  Unfortunately, in this day and age it is becoming increasingly clear that this odd, old colonial practice still perhaps has a place in politics today.  Now I am a firm believer that there is no higher calling than serving your fellow man.  Be it your church, community, school or neighbor. And it takes many forms – deacon, peace officer, firefighter, first responder, military, community volunteer, elected official and the list goes on.  But once you demonstrate your inability to distinguish between public service and self service, folks it’s time to hang em up.

If you can’t see that for yourself, well then there is always the rail.  Let’s not forget that we voters speak with our feet, but we can always take a page from history if that message isn’t strong enough.  Go a little further back and tar & feathers were the instruments of choice to demonstrate displeasure.  Now that would be just a little too ridiculous don’t you think?  But given the level of self-service we have seen demonstrated lately – maybe it’s exactly what Pappy would have ordered.




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